The most popular traditional Chinese foods are chow mein, chop suey, stinky tofu, fried rice, kung pao chicken, char siu pork, stir fry and congee.
Chinese cuisine is popular all over the world due to the intense flavors, delightful textures, and exciting combinations of ingredients.
The climate and geographical conditions of China help to create a broad range of ingredients that are naturally grown in the area.
Chinese food also has symbolic meaning. They take great care over the preparation of this food due to its significance to their culture and tradition.
Keep reading if you want to learn more about traditional and popular Chinese food and how you can make it at home.
Chinese Traditional And Popular Food: Quick Table
|Chow mein||340||35 Minutes|
|Chop Suey||298||14 Minutes|
|Stinky Tofu||205||20 Minutes|
|Congee||286||1 Hour 50 Minutes|
|Fried Rice||152||20 Minutes|
|Scallion Pancakes||202||1 Hour|
|Mapo Tofu||335||35 Minutes|
|Kung Pao Chicken||437||1 Hour 30 Minutes|
|Chinese Tomato Egg Stir Fry||333||10 minutes|
|Char Siu Pork||274||1 Hour|
1. Chow Mein
Chow mein is a traditional Chinese noodle dish that contains plenty of vegetables.
It is all cooked in one pan which makes it quick and easy and reduces the amount of time you need to spend cleaning up afterwards.
Chow mein is very versatile – you can add whatever meat and vegetables you fancy, or make it with seafood or just meat.
You can add lots of sauce or just a little sauce if you prefer a dry chow mein.
This recipe is for a chicken chow mein with cabbage, carrot, and green onion.
Plenty of garlic is used to create an aromatic flavor, and you can add extra vegetables if you want to.
2. Chop Suey
Chop Suey doesn’t originate in China, but in San Francisco. It was created by Chinese immigrants who moved to America during the Gold Rush.
It was a great way to use up leftover ingredients in order to save money and prevent waste, but it can also be made with fresh ingredients.
It is a very quick meal to cook which makes it ideal for busy weeknights when you don’t want to spend too long in the kitchen.
It is a tasty chicken stir fry with plenty of vegetables and a savory, salty sauce. You can also make a different variation of chop suey which is more of a noodle soup or stew than a stir fry.
3. Stinky Tofu
Stinky Tofu is a very popular street food in China and Taiwan.
It is made with fermented tofu which has an interesting smell – people have compared it to the smell of garbage.
There are several ways to make stinky tofu. Traditional recipes use fermented milk, fish brine and various forms of meat.
This recipe uses bean curd, oyster sauce and cornstarch along with vinegar and other flavorings to create a strong taste.
You need to leave the tofu to marinate for 24 to 48 hours before draining the tofu and frying it. If you leave it for longer, the flavor will intensify.
Congee is a form of rice porridge which has a umami flavor. This recipe uses vegetable broth, you can use chicken broth or seafood broth instead if you prefer.
You can whatever you like to your congee – vegetables, seafood, chicken – or leave it plain.
This recipe uses jasmine rice for a fragrant flavor, with plenty of garlic.
It is packed with shitake mushrooms, dried shrimp and dried scallops. You can serve congee with fried dough sticks.
5. Chinese Fried Rice
Fried rice is very popular in Western versions of Chinese food.
It is easy to make and has a wonderful, savory flavor which complements a lot of Chinese cuisine.
You can use eggs in the fried rice if you want to, or you can leave them out.
Fried rice is one of those dishes that you can cobble together with very few ingredients, or you can pack it full of whatever you have that needs using up.
You need to boil or steam the rice and let it cool before you fry it. It needs to be dry and not sticky, or your rice will be clumpy.
6. Scallion Pancakes
Scallion pancakes are a savory appetizer that you can enjoy with soup, dipping sauce or on their own.
They have a crisp outer coating and a soft yet chewy middle. They are very simple to make, but they are incredibly satisfying to eat.
All you need to make this recipe is all purpose flour, salt, peanut oil, green onions, water, and some vegetable oil to fry the pancakes in.
The recipe also tells you how to make your own dipping sauce using soy sauce, rice vinegar and sugar.
7. Mapo Tofu
This is a fragrant Chinese dish that is spicy and flavorsome. It is often served with ground meat of some kind – this recipe uses ground pork for a delicious flavor.
Sichuan peppercorns, thai bird chilies and dried red chillies are used for a punchy kick of spice.
This is a very aromatic dish with ginger and garlic creating a deep flavor.
The sesame oil really complements these ingredients, along with the savory chicken broth and silken tofu.
This recipe is quick and easy to make. You can have restaurant quality food in next to no time.
It is often served over rice, and can also be served with steamed vegetables. It is a healthy meal but is quite high in oil.
8. Kung Pao Chicken
Kung Pao is a dish that comes from the Sichuan region of China in the South West.
It is a stir fry dish often made with chicken or shrimp, along with peanuts, chili peppers and various vegetables.
Kung Pao chicken is one of the most popular dishes at Western Chinese takeout restaurants.
When you make it at home you can add more or less spice depending on how much kick you like your food to have.
This dish has quite an intense flavor, especially if you use authentic ingredients like Sichuan chili.
9. Chinese Tomato Egg Stir Fry
This recipe is similar to scrambled eggs, but is a tasty Chinese version in a sticky style sauce with sweet tomatoes.
It only takes 10 minutes to make and is a wonderful breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Along with the eggs and tomatoes is green scallion, sesame oil and shaoxing wine.
Salt and sugar is added to create a balanced flavor. This dish is unlike any other scrambled eggs you will have tried, and you will love the complex flavor.
10. Char Siu Pork
Char Siu is a delicious BBQ pork that is skewered and roasted.
It is a sweet and spicy BBQ sauce with oriental flavors of hoisin, soy sauce, sesame, minced garlic, five spice, honey and white pepper.
The best type of meat to use for this recipe is boneless pork shoulder. You should leave the fat on as it will melt and create a wonderful, rich flavor.
The pork is marinaded for at least 8 hours to create an intense flavor that runs all the way through the meat.
It takes a bit of effort to cook this pork perfectly to create the ideal texture, but it will definitely be worth it.
11. Hunan Steamed Fish With Salted Chili
This dish is made with the upper part of the fish, and sometimes only the head of the fish is used.
If you are using smaller fish then you can use the whole fish if you want to.
This recipe uses fish filets as it is much easier to cook and prepare if you are recreating this dish at home.
Steaming the fish ensures that it remains perfectly tender, and the salted chillies add a hot spice. This is not a dish for people who like mild food.
The fish is cooked with tofu which adds protein and nice texture. You can serve it with whatever side dish you fancy.
The good thing about making this dish at home is that you can add more or less spice and experiment with the flavors to see how you like it. You can also try using different types of fish.
12. Sticky Rice With Chinese Sausage
Sticky rice served with Chinese sausage is a very popular dish at Dim Sum restaurants.
It is served in a dome shape which looks very appetizing on the plate.
It’s fairly easy to make and includes dried shrimp and dried black mushrooms along with Chinese sausage.
This recipe is ideally cooked in a rice cooker, you can also do it in a wok.
Once you have your cooked, sticky rice, it goes into the wok with the other ingredients to create a delightful fried rice.
Plenty of soy sauce is used in this recipe as well as chicken broth, oyster sauce, sesame oil and Shaoxing wine.
13. Baozi (Steamed Pork Buns)
Steamed buns are a popular form of Chinese street food and are also eaten for breakfast quite often in China. The buns are steamed, not fried, which keeps them nice and soft.
It is slightly chewy with a very subtle sweetness- a perfect pairing for the pork filling.
The pork is flavored with szechuan peppercorns, five spice, coriander, ginger, garlic, white and black pepper, chives, soy sauce and sesame oil.
Ground pork is used for its soft, smooth texture, and shredded cabbage adds a lovely savory note. The use of MSG is optional, but will create a more authentic flavor.
14. Zah Jiang Mian
This dish, also called ‘fried sauce noodles’ is associated with Beijing. It’s eaten in homes, in fancy hotels, and from street vendors.
The noodles are nice and chewy and the sauce is rich and meaty.
The sauce has a base of dark bean sauce which has a concentrated flavor, and sweet bean sauce which is lighter and is quite sweet.
Ground pork is cooked with ginger and garlic until it is caramelized.
Shiitake mushrooms are added, then the bean sauces and some soy sauce. The noodles are cooked separately and then added to the sauce.
This dish can be served with shredded carrot and shredded cucumber to add a light, fresh flavor.
15. Tofu Pudding
Tofu pudding, also called Douhua, is a type of custard type mixture made with tofu. It is silky, smooth, and quite gelatinous.
It is often eaten for breakfast, and can be bought hot from street food vendors who serve it with a little sugar.
Tofu pudding is often flavored with ginger or pandan. It is high in protein, calcium and iron and is a very healthy yet enjoyable way to start your day.
There is also a salty version of this dish which is popular in Northern China. It is served with meat or seafood.
16. Chinese Hot Pot At Home
Chinese hot pot is a social meal that is often made for gatherings with family or friends.
In the center of the table is a pot of hot soup which is kept bubbling. Around the pot are bowls and plates of ingredients such as meat and vegetables.
You can add whatever you want to the soup and then fish it out with a ladle when it’s finished.
You can then put together your own dipping sauce to eat your cooked items.
This meal allows everyone around the table to personalize their dish and eat only what they want. It’s a perfectly comforting meal for a cold day.
17. Wonton Soup
Wonton soup is a healthy dish packed with vitamins and nutrients that can boost your energy and help support your immune system.
This recipe has wontons with a juicy pork and shrimp filling that is delightfully savory.
You can use frozen or store bought wontons, but they are not as flavorsome and the texture is not as good.
The ground pork and shrimp is mashed together into a smooth paste along with mushrooms, water chestnuts, carrots, Asian greens and seasoning.
Wrapping the wontons can be a bit fiddly to start with, but once you get the hang of it you will be doing it in seconds.
The broth used for this soup is chicken broth. You can make your own, or buy Chinese chicken broth from an Asian store.
It only takes 35 minutes to make this delicious and nourishing soup.
18. Rou Jia Mo (Chinese Hamburger)
Rou Jia Mo can be translated into braised meat with bread. They are also affectionately called Chinese hamburgers. They come from Shaanxi province.
The pork belly is soft and tender, cooked with plenty of spices and flavors.
The bread is a fermented dough with a savory flavor and a slightly chewy texture.
If you cook the meat a day ahead of time the flavors will mingle and intensify, creating a better result at the end.
It has an aromatic flavor of ginger along with salty soy and lots of different spices.
19. Soup Dumplings
Soup dumplings, also called Xiao Long Bao, are associated with Shanghai. This is why dumpling soup is often referred to as Shanghai soup.
The soup itself is very simple – black vinegar, meat broth and ginger.
The dumplings are filled with ground pork flavored with ginger, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, salt, sugar, white pepper and minced green onions.
Make sure you use ground pork with a high fat content as this adds to the flavor.
20. Peking Duck
This duck dish is indulgent and incredibly flavorsome. It has a history of being associated with majestic royalty in China, and is a real treat of a meal.
The skin of the duck is crispy, the meat is tender and juicy, and the smell will make your mouth water.
The flavors are complex but well balanced – cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, pepper, honey, soy sauce, plum and orange – all perfectly balanced to create a sweet and spiced flavor to complement the duck.
You need to bias the duck to make sure that all of the flavor is absorbed into the meat and the skin.
The duck needs to be cooked perfectly to get the right texture, but as long as you follow the instructions it will turn out perfectly.
21. Hong Shao Rou (Shanghai Style Braised Pork Belly)
This dish is also called red cooked pork. There are lots of different versions of this recipe – some include squid, hard boiled eggs or tofu.
This one keeps it simple. The pork belly has plenty of fat which adds flavor and keeps the meat nice and soft.
The pork belly is simmered before it is fried in the wok with plenty of soy sauce to color the meat.
The only other ingredients are Shaoxing wine, sugar and water – it’s a very simple dish.
However, it is incredibly flavorsome and can be served with anything you like – rice, noodles, vegetables, bread etc.
22. Chinese Lion Head Pork Meatballs
These pork meatballs are a family favorite across China. They are succulent and flavorsome and have a wonderful flavor.
They are made with ground pork, water chestnuts and breadcrumbs and eggs are used to bind them together.
The meatballs are lightly browned and braised and cooked in soy sauce and ginger with green onions.
You can serve them with rice or noodles and plenty of steamed green vegetables.
This dish is a very popular street food and gets its name from the shape of the meatball.
23. Eggplant With Garlic Sauce
Eggplant with garlic sauce, also called Yu Xiang Qiezi, is a very popular dish.
The eggplant is soft and tender and has a lovely fragrant flavor of aromatic garlic.
The eggplant is stir fried with meat – though you can leave this out if you want a vegetarian dish.
Pickled chili is also added to the dish which is spicy and adds a bit of acidity.
The sauce for this dish is made with black rice vinegar, shaoxing wine, sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and cornstarch.
Along with, of course, lots of garlic and some green onions.
The minced meat can be switched out for tofu if you prefer, but the ground pork adds a wonderful flavor and a nice texture to the dish.
24. Sichuan Shredded Pork With Garlic Sauce
The flavor of this dish is tangy, sweet, spicy and sour all at once.
The garlic sauce is very similar to the eggplant recipe – pickled chili, rice wine, black rice vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, garlic and spring onion.
The Chinese – Yu Xiang – translates to fresh fragrance, and perfectly describes this dish.
You can easily replace the pork in this dish for beef, chicken, seafood, or even tofu. Flank steak works particularly well, and adds a lovely rich flavor to the dish.
The trickiest part of this recipe is preparing the pork filet. It needs to be Julienne – cut into thin shreds. It is easier to do if the pork has been partially frozen.
Use a very sharp knife and wet the blade in between strokes to prevent the meat from sticking to the knife.
Ingredients To Keep On Hand For Chinese Cooking
There are some ingredients that you should try to keep on hand if you want to do a lot of Chinese cooking.
If you keep these ingredients to hand then you will always be prepared to make a traditional Chinese dish.
- Soy Sauce – Soy sauce can be dark or light, and a lot of recipes call for a bit of each. Try and get hold of a good brand as it will have a more authentic flavor.
- Shaoxing wine – This is a rice wine made by fermenting glutinous rice, water and wheat. It is also called yellow wine. It has an aromatic flavor which is ideal for dishes with braised meat.
- Sesame oil – Sesame oil is used more as a flavoring rather than a cooking oil. Vegetable oil is used for cooking, and sesame oil is used for dipping sauces or marinades.
- Garlic – A lot of Chinese recipes call for garlic because it is so aromatic and flavorsome. It goes well with meat, seafood, tofu, vegetables and all sorts of ingredients.
- Chili – Fresh chillies give a wonderful spicy kick to chinese dishes. You can add as many or a few as you like. Some recipes need red chillies and others need green chillies. They are arguably interchangeable but they do have different flavors and levels of spice.
- Green onions – Also known as scallions, these are used to give a savory and punchy flavor to a lot of chinese dishes. They are also used as a garnish.
- Water Chestnuts – Water chestnuts can be added to a stir fry for a lovely crunchy texture. They can also be chopped up finely and added to meat fillings for dumplings and wontons. They add a savory flavor and are very authentic for chinese cooking.
- Tofu – A lot of recipes have tofu as a main ingredient. It can also be used as a great replacement for meat if you want to take a traditional Chinese recipe and make it vegetarian.
- Pork – Pork is a popular choice for many Chinese dishes. Ground pork is used for dumpling fillings, and belly pork is used for sticky dishes.
Chinese Cooking Methods
There are several cooking methods that are used often in Chinese cooking.
- Braising – This is a method of cooking meat that uses both wet and dry heat. The meat is either browned and then simmered, or simmered and then fried. This method ensures that the meat is succulent and juicy, but still very flavorsome.
- Stir Fry – A lot of ingredients are stir fried in Chinese cooking. This is done in a wok and is a great way to cook things quickly. The high heat browns the ingredients and quickly heats up the sauce, releasing the flavors of soy sauce, garlic and chillies.
- Caramelizing – Meat in Chinese recipes is often caramelized to make it sticky. This is usually done in the wok, and adds a lot of flavor to the dish.
- Simmering – There are lots of Chinese recipes that use meat broths as a base. Ingredients are simmered in the meat broth – things like wontons, dumplings, or vegetables.
- Roasting – You can also enjoy delicious roasted meats such as Peking duck. The meat is often roasted carefully to create perfectly tender meat and crispy skin.
Chinese cuisine is diverse, complex, and delicious. There are a range of dishes from meat, to seafood to vegetarian to sweet treats.
A lot of these recipes can be customized to change the level of spice so that you can make sure it suits your personal taste.
If you want to get to grips with the most popular Chinese dishes then this list is a great place to start.
These recipes make it easy for you to recreate authentic Chinese dishes from your own kitchen.
Your friends and family will be impressed with the flavors and textures that you are able to create.
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Tuesday 29th of November 2022
A very good article. Congratulations